Credit: HP/Courtesy the Artist

The B-Series returns to the Dance Center at Columbia College with B-Free, a festival that spotlights hip-hop artists and street dancers who are blurring boundaries between the foundational forms of the art. The B in “B-Series” stands for many things, says assistant professor Kelsa Robinson, who has curated the program since its inception in 2013. Originally it meant the “break” in funk and soul records where a drum solo would occur. “Kids at the time considered it the funkiest part of the track,” Robinson explains, and the dancers that took the floor during that section of the music became known as “B-boys” and “B-girls.” It can also mean a breakdown—being swept away by the music “like catching the Holy Ghost in the black church.” And finally, she says, it means “‘be’ as in manifestation—you be whatever you proclaim to be. We have the agency to take whatever condition we’re presented with and turn it into a manifestation of our choosing and our vision.”

For the first time, the B-series will be presented in coordination with the Dance Center’s Dance Presenting Series, which features the breaking/hip-hop/house/voguing fusion company Ephrat Asherie Dance. In addition to panels and workshops, the central draw is the community jam, featuring a freestyle battle for prizes. “We have been bringing hip-hop more into credit-bearing spaces and into the curriculum [at Columbia],” says Robinson. “We can’t re-create the authentic culture of hip-hop in a studio. This is an opportunity for students to experience it in practice.”   v